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Contradictory approaches? On realism and constructivism in the social sciences research on risk, technology and the environment

[journal article]

Metzner-Szigeth, Andreas

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Abstract This article discusses approaches to researching the risk-problems of industrial societies. It examines why the risk-constructivism neglects questions of the material production of risks in favor of questions of their communicative construction, while the risk-realism does it the other way round. Subsequently the possibilities of a synthesis of both approaches are being considered. The societal functions of risk-constructions are accordingly not limited to their efficacy in the sphere of social communication processes. They lie as well in the field of regulation of the metabolism of societies and their ecological environment. The validity of risk-constructions is consequently not only bound to their cultural weightiness, whether one believes in them or not, but to their capacity to manage realities, measured by their ability to bring expectations in accordance with events. Risk-constructions are not only transformed in the milieu of discourses, but also in the context of social practices which give the opportunity to acquire experiences and to perform learning processes in order to optimize risk-constructions as regulative instruments.
Keywords risk assessment; risk management; risk research; technology assessment; endangerment; perception; epistemology; ontology; constructivism
Classification Sociology of Science, Sociology of Technology, Research on Science and Technology; Technology Assessment
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 156-170
Journal Futures : the journal of policy, planning and futures studies, 41 (2009) 3
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2008.09.017
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike